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Letter to Boise Neighborhood Associations

posted Jan 12, 2018, 2:26 PM by Richard Llewellyn   [ updated Jan 12, 2018, 2:31 PM ]

Dear Boise Neighborhood Association Presidents,


I am writing to let you know that we have just officially reactivated the North West Neighborhood Association -- which is made up of the recently annexed area of the city west of Gary Lane, including Old Hill Road to the north, bordered by State Street to the south and Horseshoe Bend Road to the west. As often seems to be the case, a nucleus of neighbors formed around concerns about a disruptive change planned for our area--in our case it was, and is, a new development proposal of about 300 units along Hill Road Parkway--and in doing so found that we had no active neighborhood association.  We contacted the city and Kathleen Lacey encouraged us to reactivate the association. We are now once again a fully bonafide neighborhood association, and I find myself the president.


I grew up in this area in the 1970s and 1980s, and have seen many changes, but none so fast and entire as what we are witnessing today. Here few of our houses are more than a hundred years old, but we cherish our semi-rural landscape of small pastures, fields, and wildlife along the foothills in much the same way that you may hold dear your historic buildings, stately boulevards, or minimalist brick bungalows.  One can view the boundaries between neighborhoods from many perspectives--as children we wrote 83702 on our return addresses, traveled down Hill Road to Pierce Park elementary and then to Hillside Junior High.  Older neighborhood kids had ridden their bicycles, caught the school bus, or driven their first cars into Boise High before Capital High was built.  There was a natural transition from the suburban residences of Collister that still retained a rural flavor with larger lots, to small farm houses with pastures and larger agricultural fields as one moved out from Boise along the route of the Oregon Trail toward Highway 55.


Here along Old Hill Road there is still a last connection between the foothills and farms of Boise River bottomland.  This is a favorite area for cyclists and Sunday drivers to catch a glimpse of soaring raptors, hunting foxes, or browsing deer in a neighborhood less changed from the Boise of yesteryear.  It is this area that may soon, if we as neighbors are unsuccessful, hold a dense array of apartments, multi-story townhouses, and close-packed houses.  The issue is not, from my perspective, that dense housing is not useful or desirable, but that it does not belong here in this transition to the foothills as we try to maintain a balance of new and old--already our North West neighborhood, the second smallest of the city associations, has accommodated 557 apartment units, 209 townhouses, but only 13 single family homes since annexation, in an area that had no apartments and was known for its rural character, large lots, and big gardens only a few short years ago.


It is not in the best interest of the neighborhood, or of Boise at large, to allow this kind of development here at the farthest reaches of the city.  The concept of mixed use is not without merit, but only if it represents stability rather than a mere snapshot in a slide toward a neighborhood collapse.  And there is real danger of creating a dense, isolated region beyond bus service here on the far outskirts of Boise, as long-term residents bordering landscape-changing new developments sell and move away.  Traffic from these 300 new housing units will enter Hill Road Parkway and almost certainly travel the length of Hill Road into downtown rather than fight the congestion on State Street.   Favorite routes for cyclists and pedestrians near Dry Creek Cemetery will be disrupted, and the tranquility of some of the last farmland along the foothills in Boise will be gone forever.


I am reaching out to you as both the president of the NWNA about issues that affect the larger city, as well as a neighbor engaged in a fight to have some power to shape our immediate future.  I believe that I echo a coalescing zeitgeist in seeing that we are at an inflection point in our trajectory toward the Boise of twenty years from now:  the choices that we make during this phase of rapid growth will have exaggerated influence on the future character of our city and our quality of life.  But if we keep fighting essentially the same fight in isolation we are bound to learn the same hard lessons over and over again without engaging the larger region to re-create a shared vision of our future.


Of course, in this regard, it must be regrettably commonplace to emphasize the need for inter-neighborhood cooperation and support when one’s own neighborhood is threatened.  Nonetheless, I recently saw the power of a broad coalition as five neighborhoods came together to oppose the CVS building on State St., and personally played a small part by highlighting to Planning and Zoning simple and fundamental flaws in CVS’ request for a CUP for a drive-up window.  To be honest, I would not have given the CVS proposal much thought without the local, well-organized opposition to what they articulated as an inappropriate change to their neighborhood.


We expect the official application for the Hill Road Parkway development (Corey Barton Homes / Trilogy) to be submitted later this month, but the ‘conceptual plan’ presented to 200 or so concerned neighbors on the 18th of December had no designated open space, no consideration for the wildlife that traditionally range from the foothills into this farmland along the irrigation laterals, and in essence, no accomodation of what we value here in NW Boise.  According to WHPacific spokesperson Jane Suggs, there is little room for altering the plan, as the companies paid ‘top dollar’ for these fields that were farmed until a year ago.


Our response is to oppose the necessary rezoning request from its current R-1A (allowing 2.1 houses per acre).  We hope that other neighborhood associations will join us in this fight, as several of us have joined the CVS fight, and hope to strengthen the coalition between neighborhoods.  I note that the well-regarded national newsletter CityLab recently quoted Nicole Windsor (president of the West Downtown Neighborhood Association): “The city’s modest size, Windsor said, means that neighborhood associations tend to stick up for each other, even if a proposal wouldn’t affect their area directly.”  I hope this will become even more true in the future, even as Boise grows.


Currently, we are distributing an online petition by sharing this link: https://goo.gl/forms/4x3ZA0FO1sa3Kunh2, writing the Mayor and City Council members about what we like about this far corner of Boise, and encouraging supporters to follow us on Facebook at Old Hill Road and our new group North West Neighborhood Association of Boise, where we will keep everyone up to date.  If you are willing to share this letter and/or our informational flyer (attached) through channels appropriate to your neighborhood, we would be very appreciative.  If you would like a tour of the area, we would love to host interested citizens to show off what we appreciate about our neighborhood today.  And please, share concerns your neighborhoods have with us so that we may help each other where and when we can.


Sincerely,


Richard Llewellyn

PhD Biochemistry

NWNA President

llewelr@gmail.com

(208) 419-7527


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